Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Formaldehyde: Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life

Date:
April 4, 2011
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
Formaldehyde, a poison and a common molecule throughout the universe, is likely the source of the solar system's organic carbon solids -- abundant in both comets and asteroids. Scientists have long speculated about the how organic, or carbon-containing, material became a part of the solar system's fabric. New research shows that these complex organic solids were likely made from formaldehyde in the primitive solar system.

Formaldehyde molecules.
Credit: iStockphoto/Matteo Rinaldi

Formaldehyde, a poison and a common molecule throughout the universe, is likely the source of the solar system's organic carbon solids -- abundant in both comets and asteroids. Scientists have long speculated about the how organic, or carbon-containing, material became a part of the solar system's fabric. New research from Carnegie's George Cody, along with Conel Alexander and Larry Nittler, shows that these complex organic solids were likely made from formaldehyde in the primitive solar system.

Related Articles


Their work is published online April 4 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We may owe our existence on this planet to interstellar formaldehyde," Cody said. "And what's ironic about it is that formaldehyde is poisonous to life on Earth."

During the early period of the inner solar system's formation, much of the organic carbon that wasn't trapped in primitive bodies was lost to space, along with much of the water. Prior to this study numerous competing ideas emerged to explain the existence of primitive organic solids. Cody, of the Geophysical Laboratory, along with Alexander and Nittler, of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, and the team decided to study primitive solar system objects using advanced methods. What they discovered clearly pointed to a polymer formed from formaldehyde.

They tested their conclusion with experiments to reproduce the type of organic matter found in carbonaceous chondrites, a type of organic-rich meteorite, starting with formaldehyde. They found that their formaldehyde-synthesized organic material was not only similar to that found in carbonaceous chondrites, but also similar to organic material found in a comet named 81P/Wild 2, pieces of which were collected in space by NASA's Stardust mission, as well as in interplanetary dust particles, or particles from space that likely originated from comets and asteroids.

Their results make sense, because formaldehyde is relatively abundant throughout the galaxy and the polymerization process would have been possible under conditions of the primitive solar system.

"Establishing the likely origin of the principal source of organic carbon in primitive solar system bodies is extremely satisfying," Cody said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. George D. Cody, Emily Heying, Conel M. O. Alexander, Larry R. Nittler, A. L. David Kilcoyne, Scott A. Sandford, Rhonda M. Stroud. Cosmochemistry Special Feature: Establishing a molecular relationship between chondritic and cometary organic solids. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015913108

Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Formaldehyde: Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404151351.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2011, April 4). Formaldehyde: Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404151351.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Formaldehyde: Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404151351.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Around the World Take Flight

Birds Around the World Take Flight

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 22, 2014) An imperial eagle equipped with a camera spreads its wings over London. It's just one of the many birds making headlines in this week's "animal roundup". Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins